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Carmel Macmillans’ mentoring story

Life had become so frenetic for Carmel Macmillan as she managed a major consulting project with Tabcorp, sat on five boards and cared for her disabled son, that she literally didn’t have time to think.  It was only while catching the bus home from the client that she caught her breath and had time to reflect.

In that moment she realised something was wrong.  She’d left her C-Suite role 10 years earlier to gain flexibility and focus on paid board roles, but in reality, neither of these was happening.

Added to that was the stress she harboured having long kept her son’s disability hidden from her employers, because she thought that as a woman the stigma would hold her career back and she’d be judged.

Carmel says “For many years I hid it because I saw it as a sign of weakness".  She goes on to say "I was so busy that I had no time to invest in my board career. I wasn’t attending events. I was putting things off and I felt unhappy about it. I knew I had to do something.  It was a great contract, but it wasn’t helping me reach my aspirations.” 

Sound familiar?  Find out how a mentor helped Carmel make fundamental changes, including closing her consulting business, stepping down from two boards and changing her perspective about her son’s disability.

Carmel’s background

Carmel had a successful executive career in marketing, customer experience and business development across fast-moving consumer goods with international and Australian brands like Herron, Nestle and Inghams.  She also had 16 years’ board experience across disabilities, arts, commercial property, health and membership-based organisations.  

Carmel’s key reasons for  taking a mentor

After that moment on the bus, Carmel said she took action to find a mentor for three main reasons.  Firstly, she wanted paid board roles and needed help to determine which sectors to target. 

Secondly, she wanted help with her CV and LinkedIn profile and to hone her value proposition.  She said that while she’d done this with professional help before, as a board member for a number of years, the value she brought had shifted and increased.

Thirdly, she needed to learn how to use her contacts more effectively.  She knew it was an area of major weakness. She had contacts but wasn’t strategically working them. 

So she decided to sign up to MyMentor. 

The Mentoring Process

Ruth Jones, WOB’s My Mentor Manager, says “we see the initial My Mentor matching process as critical..  The mentor and the mentee need to gel.”

Carmel said “while I didn’t ask for Cheryl Hayman, I had been half-stalking her career in admiration since we have similar backgrounds.  I was overjoyed when Ruth told me I’d been matched with Cheryl.”

Once matched and introduced, Cheryl and Carmel developed a schedule, managing to coordinate a face to face, even though Carmel was based in Brisbane and Cheryl in Sydney - with Ruth checking in on progress and to ensure the match was a fit.

Carmel said she liked the fact that the program was structured and that she was given a lot of actionable takeaways and homework after each session.

Once we got to know each other, Cheryl confirmed that Carmel “Already knew what you need to do.  You’ve been a director for a number of years, you’re just lacking self-confidence and focus”.   

Carmel said “Cheryl boosted my confidence to be bold and NOT to be afraid to reach out to ASX directors and recruiters. She encouraged me to consider myself an equal. And I was pleasantly surprised that the people I contacted wanted to meet and were impressed that I’d reached out to them.”

Cheryl and Carmel also talked t about professional development and agreed that WOBSX was the next logical step for Carmel, who said she was  fortunate to be accepted into WOB's top end director-led program.  “It’s been a lot of work, but I’m loving it so far” Carmel said.

How things have changed

“Since the mentoring I’m more confident in my abilities. I closed my consulting business after  realising that being on boards is what I want to do, and If I’m serious, I need to commit”, Carmel said.

She also stepped down from two boards she was on and took  on more responsibility on the boards she retained.

A major shift in perspective

Before being mentored Carmel didn’t divulge that she had a disabled child or that she took a sabbatical to look after him. “For many years I hid it because I saw it as a sign of weakness, but through mentoring I’ve realised it’s important to who I am and the boards I’ve selected. It’s been an important part of my board journey.”

“I learned that authentic self-promotion that sits with my values is the best way of selling myself.” Carmel says.  

Carmel said fear of rejection had been holding her back. But she’s since learned that high level directors are very willing to share their wisdom and advice and help.

Reflections

Carmel said she doesn’t know why she didn’t do it earlier.  “I’m 100% sure that I’d have more paid board roles if I did it earlier”.  While she had career executive mentors, she thought she could do boards on her own.  “How wrong could I have been? Mentoring provides the distance and perspective for more self-awareness and change.”

Carmel sums up the whole experience as rewarding, valuable and inspiring.

Her advice to anyone considering a mentor is “don’t waste valuable time considering whether it’s the right way to go. Mentors are a key strategy to deliver your first board role or to broaden your portfolio. They are a must.”

More about Carmel

LinkedIn  Carmel Macmillan
NED Women on Boards, 2019
NED, The Mater Foundation
NED, Multiple Sclerosis Society Queesland
NED Lagberry PL 2012-2019
Chair, Queensland Poetry Festival, 2015-2019
NED, Piovesan Nominees PL 2002 – 2019
Mentor ilab Incubator
Manager Lotteries Strategy – Golden Casket Lottery Corporation, 2004-2008.

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Program Information: email Ruth Jones

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